This is Duolingo, a language-learning website/app that deserves some serious recognition. It offers over 10 languages for English speakers, as well as courses for non-English speakers around the world, and they’re in the process of adding more.
But wait, I don’t want to do any more schoolwork! Not to worry little one, Duolingo is actually more like a game. You can compete with friends, and earn “lingots” (which are basically Duolingo money) to buy power-ups, extra activities, and bonus skills - like Flirting.
I’m already taking a language, what do I need this for?
It’s not really a secret that most school language courses (in America, anyway) suck and only teach you to speak the language at about a third grader’s level. Which is why Duolingo is so freaking awesome.
Teachers can’t give every student individualized attention, but Duolingo can. If you’re not learning the way you want to or as much as you want to in the classroom, Duolingo is a really great resource. It’s easy, tailored to you, and really effective.
Duolingo tracks your progress and reminds you when you haven’t studied for a while or need a refresher on something. Already semi-fluent in a language? No problem, just take a shortcut to more advanced subjects or test out of the lesson.
The lessons start with the basics (he, she, hello, thank you, etc) and move up to harder stuff. Duolingo focuses on vocabulary first, so you can learn the language and then the grammar that goes with it - much simpler than the system most schools use. It also tracks the number of words you’ve learned and how well you know them.
And you don’t even have to write out the flashcards!
Duolingo is perfect for reviewing everything you forgot over the summer or giving you the extra help you need. And if you’re trying to learn a language on your own, it’s fantastic - you don’t have to create your own lessons. Whether you’re trying to learn your second, third, or fifth language, I seriously recommend Duolingo.
Okay, what else?
Duolingo also has discussion boards, where you can ask for help with a hard lesson, make new friends, watch for updates, and share your achievements.
Even better is the Immersion feature. It won’t send you to Spain or France, but it’s pretty awesome. Duolingo takes real articles from the internet, which users translate. You can translate articles from your native language into the language you’re learning or vice versa, which gives you more experience and makes the Internet more universal.
You can suggest new languages and track Duolingo’s progress in creating new courses. Bilinguals (older than 13) can help to create these courses. Duolingo has a long list of courses that can be contributed to, like Punjabi, Hebrew, and Vietnamese. Oh, and Dothraki, Klingon, Sindarin, and Esperanto.
And the best part? IT’S COMPLETELY FREE.
If you love languages or just want to pass French class this year, USE DUOLINGO. Download the app and practice a language while you wait for the bus instead of playing Angry Birds!
Your mother tongue has a lasting effect on your brain — even if you can’t remember it. That’s according to a new study from the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital and McGill University’s Department of Psychology.
It’s hard to say exactly what this means for our understanding of language acquisition, but it’s an incredible reminder that our first few months of life are so important for our brain development.
MRI images: Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University
Speaking more than one language is good for the brain, according to new research that indicates bilingual speakers process information more efficiently and more easily than those who know a single language.
The benefits occur because the bilingual brain is constantly activating both languages and choosing which language to use and which to ignore, said Northwestern University’s Viorica Marian, the lead author of the research and a professor in the department of communication sciences and disorders in the School of Communication. When the brain is constantly exercised in this way, it doesn’t have to work as hard to perform cognitive tasks, the researchers found.
"It’s like a stop light," Marian said. "Bilinguals are always giving the green light to one language and red to another. When you have to do that all the time, you get really good at inhibiting the words you don’t need," she said.
The study, which will be published online in the journal Brain and Language on Nov. 12 was one of the first to use fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to test co-activation and inhibition in bilinguals. Co-activation during bilingual spoken language comprehension, a concept Marian pioneered in 1999, means that fluent bilinguals have both languages “active” at the same time, whether they are consciously using them or not. Inhibitory control involves selecting the correct language in the face of a competing other language.
My co-worker showed this video in a workshop she presented. As a teacher of ELL/Bilingual students it was so moving and helpful in understanding what sitting in an English-speaking classroom is like for an ELL.
South Korean and Japanese Students Talk About English-Language Education
On this side of the Pacific, we often hear about our friends and peers heading over to Asia to teach English. But we rarely hear from the student perspective.
South Korea and Japan spend billions of dollars each year on private tutors and academies in addition to what is taught in school curriculums just for that extra edge in English. However, according to the folks at YouTube channel Asian Boss, majority of South Korean and Japanese students have trouble communicating in English even at the most basic level. Asian Boss took to the streets of Sydney to ask a few young men and women, likely international students, about their own experiences—and struggles—learning and conversing in English.
All of the interviewees reveal that they began studying English at a young age—one commented that children begin to learn English as early as kindergarten in Korea. But for some, English isn’t just difficult. They loathe it.
“I just hate English,” one young male student commented. “Whenever I hear English or meet foreigners, I get dizzy and I start sweating. … That’s how bad it is.”
Most students expressed that learning English felt like picking up another subject, like math—an assessment tool to measure academic performance, as one student put it. Their experiences were limited to memorizing vocabulary terms and grammar rules without properly applying that they had learned. After their exams were done, they would forget everything.
It’s time for Fiesta del Mar! Celebrate ocean conservation and Latin American cultural traditions with us Sunday, October 19. The day will include live music, cultural dance, bilingual feeding shows, crafts for kids and more!